Spring has ways of bringing happy vibes and color into our lives, and people for generations have enjoyed the transition of the seasons.
In Japan there is a way of enjoying the flowers at their finest through all four seasons: with ukiyo-e, or Japanese woodblock prints.
The Sumida Hokusai Museum is holding an exhibition called “Hokusai-Floral Glory” to celebrate the season and the way it’s expressed in Japanese art, on from March 15 to May 22, 2022.
Those who visit will enjoy experiencing this culture of floral delight through the depictions of flowers. The exhibition features Katsushika Hokusai, perhaps the most renowned ukiyo-e artist, famous for his representations of flowers and seasonality.
Flowers, beloved since the dawn of human history, have been the chosen subjects of countless paintings. “Hokusai Floral Glory” presents a superb selection of them, about a hundred works focusing on blossoms — sakura, of course, and many others — by Hokusai and his students.
There are blossom-viewing parties, flowers as they figure in familiar stories, flowers as designs applied to kimono or tools and equipment of many sorts. This exhibition introduces works with flowers that are a beloved part of every aspect of life.
Spring Is Sprung: Early Spring Flowers
Hokusai is usually associated with cherry blossoms, but in the first part of the exhibition, the artist has depicted plum blossoms.
In the picture below, the uguisu (bush warbler) at the upper right seems to be staring downwards, as though waiting for the flowers to bloom.
Cherry Blossoms: Spring in Full Bloom
But of course, one can’t talk about spring in Japan without the popular favorite both at home and abroad: cherry blossoms, or sakura, which are covered in the second section of the exhibition.
In the picture below, one sees the famous works of Hokusai.
The background to the work is that after planting cherry trees began in earnest in the Kyōhō era (1716-36), Gotenyama, which corresponds to today’s Kita Shinagawa, Tokyo, became one of the finest cherry-blossom-viewing spots in Edo.
The print is one from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, ōban nishiki-e depicting the mountain from many locations.
Colorful Flowers of the Seasons
There is so much more to enjoy of seasonality in Japan than just spring, however, and they appear in the third part of the art exhibition.
For example, camellias are used as a New Year’s flower because of their auspicious associations, and because the camellia is an evergreen tree that blooms in winter.
In the picture below, the artist Ryūryūkyo Shinsai accented the red of the petals and of the dish by pairing them with the green of the camellia leaves.
Floral Designs Adorning Daily Life
Finally, in the fourth section of the exhibition, there is a book of Hokusai which brings together the artist’s designs for kimono with the small, detailed motifs known as komon.
In each motif, combinations of the crane and flowers are turned into designs. The narcissus version, however, differs from the others in the realistic depiction of its flowers and leaves.
Name: Hokusai‐Floral Glory
Period: March 15 (Tuesday) -May 22 (Sunday), 2022
First Term: March 15 to April 17
Second Term: April 19 to May 22
Opening Hours: 9:30 AM -5:30 PM (last admission 5:00 PM)
Closed Days: Every Monday or the following day if it is a national holiday.
Organizers: Sumida City and The Sumida Hokusai Museum
The Sumida Hokusai Museum
Address：2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku,Tokyo,130-0014
- 5-minute walk from the Toei Oedo Line Ryogoku Station A3 exit
- *9-minute walk from JR Sobu Line Ryogoku Station East exit
- *5-minute by Sumida Loop Bus from the JR Sobu Line Kinshicho Station North exit
RELATED: Check out our series on the artists in [Eternal Hokusai] for background and more ukiyo-e artwork.
Author: JAPAN Forward